Group II Group III Group IV

A Field Key to the Palms of Belize

GROUP I: Leaves palmately compound (or costa-palmate, or palmately lobed)

1a. Stem armed with slender, often branched, spines Cryosophila stauracantha
1b. Stem unarmed.
2a. Petioles armed with thorns or spines.
3a. Stems clumped in groups of 2–15+, covered with persistent leaf bases; in savannas and pine forests, of low elevation in wet soils; leaves bright green above Acoelorraphe wrightii
3b. Stems solitary (rarely clumped), only apically covered with persistent leaf bases; on hillsides; leaves dull green (to glaucous) above Brahea dulcis
2b. Petioles unarmed.

Leaves with a long rachis (costa) on which the segments attach (costa nearly = length of blade); leaf sheaths conspicuously split lengthwise; ripe fruits black.

5a. Leaf segments joined in groups of 23 along one-half or less of their lengths.  

Widespread south of Corozal; Leaf segments joined for almost their entire length in groups of 23, the groups joined for about one-third their length; inflorescence branched to 4 orders.

Sabal mauritiiformis

Northern Belize (Corozal district); Leaf segments joined for one-half their length in groups of 2 (rarely 3), the groups joined for about one-sixth their length; inflorescence branched to 3 orders.

Sabal yapa

Leaf segments not joined in groups, the segments joined the same distance along their lengths; (locally common in Cayo District).

Sabal mexicana
4b. Leaf blades with a very short rachis or rachis absent; leaf sheath split or not at the base; ripe fruits black or not.

Leaf sheath and petiole conspicuously split lengthwise; leaflets usually > 50; stems ≤ 15 cm diameter; ripe fruits white, <1 cm diameter

Thrinax radiata

Leaf sheath and petiole not (or merely inconspicuously) split lengthwise; leaflets often <50, stems, fruits as above or not


Upland forest palms (usually in hills or mountains) with leaves with a short costa, whitish beneath, leaflets c. 50; stems 2035 cm diameter; inflorescences branched to four orders; ripe fruits brown or black, to 2 cm.

Colpothrinax cookii

Savanna, woodland/open forest palms of low-lying areas; leaves gray or not beneath in Coccothrinax; stems <20 cm diameter; inflorescence branched to 2 orders; ripe fruits white or purplish-black


Rare; of northernmost Belize; stems to 20 cm; leaflets c. 40-50; ripe fruits purple-black, <1.5 cm diam., inflorescence bracts not wooly tomentose.

Coccothrinax argentata

Common or rare palms south of Corozal District; stems to 10 cm; leaflets c. 30; ripe fruits white, to 2.5 cm diam., infl. bracts wooly tomentose.

Schippia concolor
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